Summer is coming to a close but thankfully, we have something new to look forward to – deer season. Ohio’s whitetail bow season opens toward the end of September. We couldn’t be more excited to get out of the house and into the woods in search of quality deer to stock the freezer. (We've even put together an article about some top bowhunting tech).
We're literally counting down the days to deer season. But while deer hunting is a family tradition for us, we know not everyone has gotten a chance to hunt deer. So we want to go over some key points and share information about deer hunting and deer season in Ohio.
Whitetail deer populations in Ohio are well-managed to create the opportunity for hunter success without environmental impact. During the 2019 hunting season, bowhunters harvested a total of 88,106 whitetail deer according to records collected by the state. For the seventh consecutive year, bowhunters harvested more deer than during gun week. Interest in bowhunting means the traditions we cherish are being passed down all across the state and nation.
Ohio Archery Hunting Season Regulations
Nobody likes rules, but these ones are important. Before you head out white-tailed deer hunting in Ohio, you should familiarize yourself with the rules and make sure to have your hunting license and the correct deer tags. Both are available online.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) sets the rules for hunting deer, including deer hunting hours and bag limits. Licensed deer hunters can take up to six deer statewide this year, but still only one antlered white-tailed deer per deer season. The hunting rules get a little more complex from there. Some counties permit only one, two, three, or four deer per hunting season. You might have to tour around the state a little to fill your bag with quality deer, so take the opportunity to explore some of the public hunting lands outside your usual range. After all, you have the whole deer season ahead of you. Make the most of it!
These rules are in place to ensure a healthy population of quality deer. Ohio’s deer management policies have led to a robust population that is stable, even after years like the 2019 deer season – which ended with the second-highest number of deer harvested on record.
When is Deer Hunting Season?
Ohio’s whitetail archery season will open as scheduled on September 26. Get ready to get in some solid deer hunting during these next few months. Bow season is open until February 7, 2021, so there's plenty of time to get some quality deer this season.
Deer Hunting Equipment Requirements and Restrictions
Ohio regulates the archery equipment that can be used for bow deer hunting. Longbows, which includes compound and recurve bows, must have a draw weight above 40 lbs when deer hunting. Crossbow hunters are required to use a rig shooting above 75 lbs for deer hunting. Arrowheads must have at least two blades with a minimum ¾-inch diameter. Bowhunters can use mechanical and expandable broadheads while hunting for deer.
Out-of-State Deer Hunters for 2020 Deer Season
Unfortunately, State regulations may make it difficult for out-of-state deer hunters this deer season. Currently, recreational and business visitors to Ohio must self-quarantine for 14 days when entering from states with positive test results over 15% – this includes deer hunting. The good news is only five states are currently reporting positive rates above that threshold. Hunters should reach out to some of the top-notch bow hunting outfitters in the region they want to hunt this deer season. Reach out early and often to stay informed about changing rules and availability. While this deer season is going to feel a little different, we don't want any hunters to actually miss out on white-tailed hunting season.
Why Ohio is a Destination for Bow Hunters
The thing that really brings bow hunters to Ohio each deer season is the opportunity to harvest a trophy buck. Although public land is limited in the state, a number of big bucks have been reported by hunters in recent years. The law that limits hunters to one antlered deer per deer season works to ensure a healthy population of yearlings, and that sub-adults have the chance to mature. In fact, some deer hunting areas report numerous bucks for each doe.
Better than any trophy is the satisfaction of filling a freezer with quality deer. Ohio bow hunters have an excellent chance of being successful each deer season. In the 2019 deer season, 77.8% of permit holders filled one tag. According to the numbers, Ohio hunters are more interested in finding perfect does for the freezer than keeping taxidermists busy. No matter whether you're into stalking trophy bucks or dropping does from a tree stand, the Buckeye State has a spot for you (and a ton of quality deer).
Bowhunting has been increasing in popularity over the years. In the 1980s, few gun hunters would also bow hunt. But these days, nearly 70% of Ohio whitetail hunters do both.
Best Places in Ohio to Hunt Deer
All bowhunters have their preferred way to hunt deer. Some folks like tree stands or blinds within walking distance of the car. Others prefer to pack in and stay a few days. Some of the most successful hunts are guided by expert hunters that know the land intimately. There are a few spots that turn out big, mature whitetail bucks like magic. The ODNR publishes tons of statistics on deer hunting in the state online.
In the south-eastern corner of Ohio you will find Lawrence County and the Wayne National Forest. There are more than 82,000 acres of public land for hunting and fishing in the county. It’s no surprise that Lawrence County produced around 1,500 deer in 2019's deer season. Twenty-four percent of the deer harvested in the county that season were on public land. It's a prime sport for quality deer hunting.
Coshocton County is an ideal destination for your bowhunting adventure. The county boasts the largest single area of public hunting and fishing land in the state. It’s also one of the most productive regions in the state. Two years in a row, Coshocton County has ranked #1 in both longbow and crossbow hunting. We can only imagine what's in store for the area this deer season.
Big Ohio white-tailed deer hang out where they are hard to hunt. The Shawnee State Park lies in the western part of the county, and its rugged, heavily forested public hunting grounds have turned out some impressive trophy whitetail. In the county, more than 4,000 quality deer were harvested during the 2019 deer season. This is a great area for bowhunters looking for an outdoor experience without the crowds.
Licking County turns out huge bucks every deer season. The biggest problem is the lack of public hunting land in the county. If you want to hunt Licking, your best bet is to arrange with an outfitter or obtain permission in writing from a landowner. Nevertheless, the county recorded the second-highest total of bucks and does in the 2019 deer season. It might take more work, but it's worth it to hunt deer out there. Several outfitters provide various levels of hunting access to out-of-state hunters and Ohioans looking to bow hunt Licking County.
The Biggest Whitetail Bucks of 2019
In Ohio, we have a fun non-profit called the Buckeye Big Buck Club. Every year, the award hunters for the biggest trophy bucks of the season in a variety of categories. Last year, Matthew Hoehn scored a 186 2/8 with a bow in Auglaize County. That was the highest-scoring “typical” buck recorded across all hunting categories. The biggest “non-typical” buck taken with a bow was a monster 225 ⅛ William Gibson, Jr. took in Clermont County. That whitetail buck was the highest-scoring deer harvested all season.
Ready for Some Quality Deer Hunting?
Every county in Ohio has its hot spots for deer hunting. Some places are easier to access for hunters, others have bigger bucks. There are numerous reasons deer season is our favorite, but the best thing is the time we spend hunting with friends and family, sharing the traditions we love. Some of the best moments every deer season are those quiet ones in a stand, waiting for the sun to come up as the deer start making their way between soybean fields and acorns.
We hope you will take the opportunity to get out and hunt Ohio when you can. Swing by Whitefeather Meats and say hello to us while you're here! We’d love to hear stories about a good deer hunt. And don't forget to check out our tutorial on field dressing a deer (and the video here) so you're ready to enjoy all your hard work.